The Lake Isle of Innisfree

by William Butler Yeats

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Discussion Topic

The allure and significance of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."

Summary:

The allure and significance of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" lie in its depiction of a peaceful, idyllic retreat from the hustle of modern life. The poem captures a longing for simplicity and nature, symbolizing a personal haven where one can find tranquility and solace.

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What attracts the poet to the Lake Isle of Innisfree in "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

When Yeats wrote "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" he was very much under the influence of Thoreau. As with the author of Walden, Yeats found the ideal of leading a simple life close to nature most appealing. This life of isolated rural bliss represents a haven of peace, far away from the madding crowds of the city. Even in the thick of the heaving throng, this Arcadian idyll still stirs the blood, retaining its hold upon the poet's imagination:

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore; While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey, I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Yeats's reference to "the pavements grey" is instructive here. City life is colorless and drab, but the Lake Isle of Innisfree offers an escape into a glorious world of color and great natural beauty. There the noon has a "purple glow," purple being a color traditionally associated with royalty. Here Yeats is emphasizing the majesty of the sun, a characteristic it shares with all of nature. The natural world is a kingdom of peace, and here Yeats will be a servant, leading a humble life of self-reliant simplicity. For a fiercely individual spirit bored and disillusioned by life in the modern city, this presents an attractive alternative indeed.

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What attracts the poet to the Lake Isle of Innisfree in "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

The thing that the poet finds so attractive about Lake Isle of Innisfree is its promise of peace:

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings,

There midnight's all a-glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet's wings.

The poet, then, longs for this place which affords a sense of contentment and relaxation far from the busy modern world. Note how the poem's slow and regular meter helps to convey this languid, dreamy effect. There is also the vivid impressionistic description of the colours and beauties of this place, and the soothing stir of nature which is so different from the strident noise of the city where the poet actually is, as the final stanza makes clear. 

The poet, then, is physically trapped in the city, but he can imagine the beauty of Innisfree and this gives him spiritual sustenance. This is one of Yeats's early lyrics, exhibiting a familiar romantic sensibility in its praise of the deep purity and beauty of nature which is contrasted with the drabness, shallowness and sterility of modern urban living.

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How would you describe the particular appeal of this escapist poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

In his autobiography, Yeats wrote of "The Lake Isle of Innisfree": 

I had still the ambition, formed in Sligo in my teens, of living in imitation of Thoreau on Innisfree . . . and when walking through Fleet Street [in London] very homesick I heard a little tinkle of water and saw a fountain in a shop-window which balanced a little ball upon its jet, and began to remember lake water. From the sudden remembrance came my poem Innisfree, my first lyric with anything in its rhythm of my own music. 

In this poem, the speaker/Yeats longs to live in the simplicity of nature, with no extraneous distractions of city life or the superfluous habits, customs, and daily routines of an increasingly fast-paced, modern world. (Consider parallels with today's postmodern world; Yeats wrote this poem in the late 19th century.) Yeats indirectly invokes Thoreau in the first stanza when he says that he wishes to build a small cabin in the woods and live alone. Both authors recognized the allure of a simple life in nature, away from civilization. In "Where I Lived, And What I Lived For, from Thoreau's Walden, he writes: 

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 

Like Thoreau, the speaker of this poem wants to experience the "essential facts of life," life itself, and this is illustrated in the second stanza where the speaker looks to soak in the basic sights and sounds of nature. 

Other than the appeal of getting away from the business of modern life (and into the simplicity of nature), the poem is appealing because it offers a mental (and potentially a physical) escape. The speaker is only dreaming of "getting away from it all." He repeats as if encouraging himself to actually do it, "I will arise and go now." Even if he never goes, he will at least have the mental escape. This is the saving grace; even if he can not get out of the city, he can imagine the escape as he can will himself to hear the lake water lapping even while standing on the pavement in the city: 

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart's core. 

There is another appeal/implication that one can never go back to the past place of nostalgia and youth, but through imagination and reflection, one can always have the mental escape and memory of another time and place. 

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How would you describe the particular appeal of this escapist poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

Although it is correct to classify "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" as an "escape" poem, there are several aspects that distinguish it from many other poems of its genre.

For one, the life that Yeats envisions for himself on the isle of Inisfree is not a fantasy; it is nothing like, for example, Coleridge's famous Xanadu.  All that Yeats hopes to find on Inisfree is a simple cabin, some rows of beans, a bee-hive, and the sounds of nature: nothing exotic or fantastical.

Another interesting aspect to Yeats's poem is that he says very little about the life from which he seeks to escape.  Although Yeats describes the drab scene of standing "on the roadway, or on the pavements grey," there are no angry complaints about life as it is.

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What is the meaning of the poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

A brief summary of this poem is that the speaker is yearning for a place of escape.  His "happy place" as many people would call it...it is in stark contrast to where he actually is...a street surrounded by gray pavement and hard silence in the city.

No, his place of escape is quiet but not silent.  There is a cabin, and images of soft, soothing water.  There will be "nine beans rows" in his garden and it is peaceful there.  The surroundings of his place of escape are natural and soothing...not manmade and harsh.  His place of escape does not cause stress like the city where he is in the last few lines of the poem.

Check out the link to more info on this poem here at Enotes.  Good Luck in your studies!

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What is the meaning of the poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

This poem is about a man, overwhelmed with urban life, who dreams of going back to nature in order to find some peace.  The man will build a small cabin there (line 2) and grow some beans (line 4).  He shall live alone (line 6) and "shall have some peace there" (line 7).  The sounds and sights of nature (second stanza) will be a comfort to him in comparison to the harsh pavement of the city (third stanza).

This poem was written at the end of the 19th century, when cities were growing quickly and nature was being abandoned for progress.  The poem emphasizes the ability of nature to restore the human spirit.  The poet has not literally gone to Innisfree, however.  In the end, although he hears the "water lapping with low sounds by the/shore", he is actually standing "on the roadway."  The contrast always readers to better understand the importance of nature, because the speaker is imagining it with rich detail even though he is far away from it.

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What is the meaning of the poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

The significance of the title of this poem lies in the way that it captures and inspires the imagination, allowing the reader to summon up an image of pastoral beauty which stands in direct contrast to "the roadway" and "the pavements grey" referred to in the last stanza. There is a sense too in which the word "Innisfree" suggests freedom and a lack of restrictions, which clearly fits into the theme of the poem as a speaker imagines a location where he can be restored by the power of nature against the corrupting influence of modern materialistic society.

In terms of developing this contrast there is too a significance with the fact that this imagined place of natural beauty is an island in the middle of the lake. It is, therefore, incredibly separate from the world that the speaker is fleeing from, and the fact that it is separated by water seems to emphasise that separation further. The importance of the water is focused on in the final stanza, where the sound of the "lake water lapping" is what the speaker thinks about to keep his heart pure in the middle of the materialistic city where he lives and works:

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Note the alliteration in "lake water lapping with low sounds," which also has something of an onomatopoeic effect in creating the sound of the lake water as it laps against the shore. The title is therefore important in creating an image of this place of natural beauty and the antidote that it represents to the city life and materialistic society that the speaker finds so oppressive.

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What is the meaning of the poem "The Lake Isle of Innisfree"?

Well, there are plenty of meanings that this beautiful and excellent poem could be argued to be trying to convey. People have variously argued that this poem is about the beauty of transcendent nature, the simplicity of living or the power of the imagination. I actually think, if we examine the life of the poet who wrote this poem, we can argue that the poem is about the desire to return to a simpler form of nostalgic existence.

Yeats himself possessed this characteristic in the form of wanting to go back to Innisfree, which is a real small island in county Sligo that he used to go to for holidays as a child. This poem was created when Yeats was based in London and walking along Fleet street, which is an incredibly busy and hectic section of this major capital city. As he was walking along, he suddenly related the sound of the fountain to the sound that the water in Sligo lake made. Note how this is refered to in the final stanza of the poem:

I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

while I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I heart it in the deep heart's core.

We see here the central opposition that drives the poem related to the theme of returning to a simpler life. The "pavements grey" and the "roadway" are compared to the "lake water lapping," and it is most definitely the latter that sustains the poem in the "deep heart's core." This poem is above all about the desire to escape the busy present and return to a childlike state of existence where everything is much simpler.

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